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Aug 01, 2001

The Origins

The story must begin with a 58 year old reclusive man who found ‘everything’ around him deteriorating. This showed up in his cynicism, and a sense of futility that anything one can do is likely to be lost without any impact and that this land was impossible.


Yet, despite having widely traveled, the pull of India on him was difficult to shake off. Was she the ‘continent of Circe’ as Nirad Choudhury had called her or was there more that lay beyond the eye?


Surely an indolent, selfish, un-enterprising society would have been extinguished long ago. Or, are there enough people doing the right things and  the good work that have kept this land going for as long as it has done as a civilisation.


A therapy.


The therapy for him therefore, was to discover those people and their work and allow those stories to sink into him. That was easier said than done. When the search began about 4 years ago [1996] the media hardly helped. The TV was given to song and dance sequences, newspapers had their screaming headlines of disasters and failures, weeklies were pot-boilers rehashing  earlier news with ‘scoops’ that often had no basis.

Yet a collection of ‘good news’ was begun which yielded little in the beginning. A ‘national daily’ published from the south was the poorest source having become  a vehicle for carrying glossy advertisements, and another ‘national chain’ fallen amidst bad times, fared slightly better as it used some good stories as fillers in its anaemic pages.


Some weeklies and the TV news occasionally covered a positive deed. Thus a collection began.


A little known tradition.


There seemed a countless number of Indians and institutions that went about their quiet work. Though they also contribute, the agitators and the protesters are not counted among these. The collection focused on people in the  tradition of Verghese Kurien, Anna Hazare, and Manibhai Desai. They go by  little known names like Saklani, Srinivasan, Kamala Jan, Rajendra Singh, Anurupa Mukherjee, Gulabo Sapera , and so on.  Their initiatives are building a new India.


To redistribute these stories in the hope that they will fill the breasts of Indians with pride and optimism was a problem. Running a dedicated magazine was justified neither by the quantity of material at hand, nor by the cost that it would entail.


Then, two things happened at about the same time.


Two events.


As India continued to open its doors, success stories featuring Indians began to pop up more often. The economy, and the nation’s confidence  began to improve. It is at such junctures that societies turn their attention to poverty, environment, conservation, learning and so on. So too India appeared to be doing . The private collection of stories became sizable—and growing!


The other thing that happened in India was the Internet. Its power was quickly understood by Indians. Its costs were affordable and one man working alone could begin a publishing enterprise that makes a swift  debut, and grows over time. On the world wide web, the size of the beginning or the pace of growth are not dictated by anything that conventional hard-publishing industry is subject to. Here was freedom. It seemed an invention made for India! And an invitation to act.


In late 1999,  goodnewsindia.com was conceived and its domain  name registered. On Jun 21, 2000 GoodNewsIndia went on-line with 3 pages of content.


It is a one man venture now. It won’t grow to anything meaningful unless it attracts participation from a wide section of the people. But that is in the future. This article is about the idea’s origins!


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When this site was in planning, Ajith, just over three years then, helped decide its logo, with a 10 second, free stroked crayon of his favourite tree with a swing. The original appears above!  When interviewed in 2005, he declared he was going to build realistic, robotic animals and birds which will capture and transmit identities of poachers. He is seldom without a collection of pets.


D V Sridharan born in 1942, worked as a sea-going engineer in the last century. In 1980 he moved out of Chennai to grow trees on a barren patch of 6.5 acres; he found the trees grew him instead. In 2006, the city having crept up to his once-peaceful environs, he ponders where he might move now. GoodNewsIndia is still a one-man production and no doubt, shows it.